Over the course of my long career, without a doubt one of the more prevalent factors that has led to decades of America experiencing the troubling increase in youth at-risk, is the absence of a father in a child’s life.
According to a report that was released in 2011 by the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends Project, the number of children living apart from their fathers had more than doubled between the years of 1960 and 2010.
Throughout this period, study after study focusing on juvenile issues from the street gang phenomena to teenage suicide to adolescent substance abuse have cited the breakdown of the American family as being a contributing factor for children turning to such self-destructive behaviors.
Between divorce and illegitimacy, the importance of a father’s presence has been severely diminished. These days it’s acceptable when single mothers refer to their child’s absent father simply as “Baby’s Daddy” as if this person is no more important to the child than the neighborhood ice cream man.
But from the time that I grew up, the world has become a far more dangerous place.
Sigmund Freud once said, “I cannot think of any need as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”
I do not believe there is any better description regarding the importance of a father in a child’s life than Freud’s. Those with progressive views will continue to demean this traditional portrayal as chauvinistic, or too overly masculine.
There is certainly the animus that has been put forward by the radical feminist movement such as when the editor of Ms. Magazine, Robin Morgan, made her feelings known when she said, “I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honorable and viable political act.” Such beliefs have persisted and promoted in a variety of women’s studies since the 1960s.
Then there are those men who have willingly turned their back on their children. The “players” who claim bragging rights to the number of women they have impregnated, but take no responsibility whether through financial support or physical involvement with the child.
But no matter, if it’s an irresponsible dad, or the changing liberal standards put forth by an increasingly liberal society, it is the child who suffers.
In building upon Freud’s description, there is far more in the twenty-first century that a child needs protection from. Certainly there are the physical influences that exist outside the front door. The gangs, the drug dealers on the corner or the predators that lurk in the shadows. Then there are the organized unsavory influences that are always stretching their tentacles out to ensnare another unsuspecting youth, most pronounced these days through social media
But perhaps what a child needs most when it comes to being protected, is the need to protect them from themselves. Without a father, the odds increase that the child will gravitate as the old saying goes to “trying to run before they ever learn how to walk”, meaning of course that any normal child is attracted to any temptation that is packaged to look appealing. The importance of a father, who stands at the mother’s side in guiding a child as they learn to make informed decisions may mean the difference of a child who lives up to their potential versus the child who can never break free from the consequences that previous poor choices has bestowed upon them.
Celebrating Father’s Day once a year is nice. Having a father every day in your life is priceless.
Bob Rinearson is a resident of Fort Wayne.